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10/27/2003
Press Release

ASHP Responds to Washington Post Series on Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Fresh thinking is needed to address the regulatory and enforcement challenges presented by weaknesses in the nation's drug distribution system, ASHP Executive Vice President and CEO Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D., told the editors of the Washington Post in a recent letter.  Manasse was responding to a five-day series entitled "Pharmaceutical Roulette" that looked at a variety of issues, including rouge Internet pharmacies, counterfeit medications, and the rise in U.S. consumers purchasing their medications in Canada and Mexico. 

October 23, 2003

TO THE EDITOR:

Kudos to the Washington Post for its important series of articles exposing the weaknesses of the nation’s drug distribution system (“Pharmaceutical Roulette,” October 19-23). Because a pharmacist’s primary responsibilities are to ensure the quality of the medicines patients use and the safe use of those products, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has long been concerned about these serious threats to the health of Americans. 

The worrisome problems of counterfeit and mislabeled medications, rogue Internet pharmacies that distribute narcotics freely to consumers, unregulated “shadow” markets, and porous borders with Canada and Mexico are extremely challenging and require fresh thinking if we are to find effective regulatory and enforcement solutions.

It is clear that because today’s pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution system is truly global in scope, some solutions must transcend borders. The United States regulatory system can only do so much. We need cooperation among international agencies to help solve this problem.
 
Much can also be done within the U.S. to protect the drug supply pipeline, including providing the resources needed for stronger federal and state oversight. We urge the Food and Drug Administration to require a “transparent” drug distribution system that accurately documents where a drug originates as well as the entire chain of custody from manufacturer to dispensing pharmacy.

Additionally, states should uniformly implement national standards for regulating the work of secondary wholesalers. This step would serve to prevent dishonest distributors from moving among states to avoid detection and prosecution.
 
Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D.
Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists